Friday, January 24, 2020

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)


This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from August 19, 2011. It can be found in our archives at http://www.archive.org/details/ThisDayInMusicHistory-19August1990



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This week’s dig through the Podcast Vault brings back a flistener guide from 2011, which was part of our 2011-12 Beethoven Project.

Leonard Bernstein was a gifted communicator, conductor and composer, who had a long history with the Boston Symphony and the Tanglewood festival. It is there that he interacted with people like Serge Koussevitzky and Aaron Copland, and held conducting master classes where he took people like Seiji Ozawa under his wing. Bernstein’s final concert in Tanglewood which we are recreating in this montage featured Bernstein “the conductor” in two major works, and featured BSO assistant conductor Carl St. Clair playing Bernstein “the composer”. All three works are significant in their own way, making this concert truly special.

I will defer to the original post (link provided above) for some of the concert details, as provided by the New York Times in a contemporaneous review. Bernstein's Arias and Barcaroles were performed in a setting for singers ad orchestra (the montage only provides a few songs from the work, performed per the original setting with piano duet accompaniment). Today's bonus share is a complete performance of the work in a setting by a different aranger (Bruce Coughlin), under the direction of another Bernstein/Tanglewood alumnus, Michael Tilson Thomas.




I think you will (still) love this music too!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

No. 331 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player found on this page.


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My wife and I have escaped the Canadian winter for a week at a sunny destination. However, I did prepare a number of posts in advance, and this montage of Liszt favourites will hopefully get you through the cold of January.

Franz Liszt was a pianist, a teacher and a composer. He developed several musical ways such as programmatic music, technique and thematic transformation. He traveled most of his life, and composed a number of works about the places that he traveled.

Two of the main works in the program are for piano and orchestra. Liszt composed his Piano Concerto No. 1 over a 26-year period; the main themes date from 1830, while the final version is dated 1849. It premiered in Weimar on February 17, 1855, with Liszt at the piano and Hector Berlioz conducting. Liszt made yet more changes before publication in 1856. Béla Bartók described it as "the first perfect realisation of cyclic sonata form, with common themes being treated on the variation principle".

Some of the titles of Liszt’s pieces, such as Funérailles, La lugubre gondola and Pensée des morts, show the composer's fascination with death. In the young Liszt we can already observe manifestations of his obsession with death, with religion, and with heaven and hell. Totentanz (English: Dance of the Dead): is notable for being based on the Gregorian plainchant melody Dies Irae as well as for daring stylistic innovations. The piece was originally planned in 1838 and completed in 1849; it was then revised twice, in 1853 and 1859.

Keeping with the heaven and hell obsession, the Mephisto Waltz No. 1 is a typical example of program music, taking for its program an episode from Nikolaus Lenau's 1836 verse drama Faust The following program note, which Liszt took from Lenau, appears in the printed score:

There is a wedding feast in progress in the village inn, with music, dancing, carousing. Mephistopheles and Faust pass by, and Mephistopheles induces Faust to enter and take part in the festivities. Mephistopheles snatches the fiddle from the hands of a lethargic fiddler and draws from it indescribably seductive and intoxicating strains. The amorous Faust whirls about with a full-blooded village beauty in a wild dance; they waltz in mad abandon out of the room, into the open, away into the woods. The sounds of the fiddle grow softer and softer, and the nightingale warbles his love-laden song.

During the period 1860-1869, Liszt devoted himself to religious music, and by this time he began to write some pieces for organ. During a two-year retreat at the Madonna del Rosario, he completed the Two Franciscan Legends that open our montage: St. François d’Assise: La Predication aux Oiseaux, and St. François de Paule: Marchant sur les flots in 1863. Liszt had personal relationships with these two saints, and particularly he regarded St. Francis of Paul as his patron.

To close the montage, I thought I would re-explore a piece I originally shared in an early Tuesday Blog post in which I explored classical music showcased in cartoons. The Cat Concerto is the 29th Tom and Jerry short, released to theatres on April 26, 1947. Following its release, it was met with critical acclaim, and is considered one of the best Tom and Jerry cartoons. It won the 1946 Oscar for Best Short Subject: Cartoons (their fourth consecutive Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, tied with Disney's musical series, the Silly Symphonies.)


In a formal concert, Tom, in a tuxedo as the soloist, is performing a piano concerto version of "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2". Jerry, who is sleeping inside the piano, is rudely awakened by the felts, then sits on top of the piano to mock the cat by "conducting" him. Yj rest of the short is filled with typical “cartoon slapstick”, usually in unison with the music which was arranged for the occasion by Scott Bradley.

I think you will love this music too.


Friday, January 10, 2020

Ye Olde Keyboards


This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from March 10, 2017. It can be found in our archives at  https://archive.org/details/pcast242



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This week’s dig through the Podcast Vault brings back a fairly recent montage that shares some keyboard concerti featuring “old keyboards”. As one of the most versatile musical instrument families, keyboards have amassed great importance and popularity. The keyboard allows a performer to play several notes at once and in close succession to one another, a feat that few other instruments can accomplish. Because nearly any composition can be played on a keyboard, whether it’s chordal harmonies, a single melody or a combination of the two, the keyboard has been utilized by nearly every major composer since the 16th century.

As I reported in the original post that accompanied this week’s encore montage, the first known keyboard instrument was the hydraulis, a type of pipe organ invented in the late 3rd century BCE in Ancient Greece. This type of organ disappeared after the fall of the Roman Empire in 5th century CE and it would be nearly a thousand years before another appeared. The first large installation pipe organ was developed in the 13th century, followed by the invention of the clavichord in 14th century France. The clavichord was the most prominent keyboard instrument until the appearance of the piano 400 years later, although very different from the piano we know today as it was smaller, lighter, and had a limited pitch range.

Leading up to the 20th century, keyboard instruments saw enormous growth with the development of the harpsichord and its relatives. Pipe organs were used predominately in churches, while the harmonium and harpsichord found a home in popular music until the advent of the modern piano in the 1900s.

Since keyboard instruments were first invented, there have been attempts to make them smaller and lighter while retaining sound quality. The invention of electricity made way for the electric piano in the 1920s, which was similar to the electric guitar in that it amplified the vibration of the strings through electricity. The electronic piano was first invented 50 years later and became the first keyboard instrument to simulate the timbre of a piano without the use of strings. While both were popular, they were quickly eclipsed by the digital piano and electronic synthesizer in the 1980s.

With the exception of Poulenc’s Concert Champêtre, the remainder of the proposed works are from the baroque and early classical period. As our bonus feature, I found another harpsichord piece by modern Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů. I took this from a YouTube playlist entitled ”Harpsichord modern compositions


I think you will (still) love this music too.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4; Triple Concerto


This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.


On this Beethoven anniversary year, we are planning monthly shares dedicated to Ludwig among our ongoing series throughout the year.

This week, to aunch this #Beethoven2020 series, we are sharing a Cover2Cover post of yet another RPO-produced and distributed disc from the late 1990's, this time part of a Beethoven piano concerto cycle with pianist Micjael Roll and Howard Shelley as conductor.

According to Wikipedia, English classical pianist Michael Roll. Born in the UK to Viennese Jewish parents, Roll was a child prodigy who performed on the concert platform with the City of Birmingham Orchestra at the age of ten and at the Royal Festival Hall aged twelve under the direction of Sir Malcolm Sargent. Roll won the Leeds Piano Competition aged only seventeen; as of 2016, he remains the competition's youngest winner.

Roll performs Piano Concerto no. 4 and is joined by violinist Jean-Jacques Kantorow and cellist Raphael Wallfisch for the "Triple" concerto.

Happy Listening!


Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770- 1827)

Piano Concerto No. 4 In G Major, Op. 58
Concerto For Violin, Violoncello, Piano And Orchestra In C Major, Op. 56 "Triple Concerto"

Violin – Jean-Jacques Kantorow (op. 56)
Cello – Raphael Wallfisch (op. 56)
Piano – Michael Roll
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Howard Shelley, conducting

Intersound 2870
Release Date - 1999
AllMusic - https://www.allmusic.com/album/beeth...o-mw0001829403

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...XOoIgnF-JFGjYp

Internet Archive -  https://archive.org/details/01beethovenpianoconcerto4ing